Monthly Archives: May 2013

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Twenty Years Ago A Terrorist Bomb Shook Florence

The Uffizi Is Targeted By A Terrorist Bomb

Twenty years ago, a little more than one hour after midnight, May 27, 1993, a massive explosion echoed throughout Florence. It was a true case of domestic terrorism.

Today an olive tree marks the place where the bomb detonated in 1993
Today an olive tree stands where the bomb detonated in 1993

A stolen white Fiat Fiorino van, loaded with explosives, was driven into the city center and parked under the Torre dei Pulci in Via dei Georgofili. The car bomb (280 kilograms of Pentrite and T4 (both components of Semtex) mixed with a small quantity of TNT) was detonated blasting a crater ten feet wide and six feet deep. Fragments of metal debris landed as far away as Via dei Calzaiuoli.

The terrorists were the members Cosa Nostra in Sicily. This was an act of intimidation.

The explosion killed five people: municipal police inspector Fabrizio Nencioni; his wife Angela, the live-in custodian at the Accademia dei Georgofili; their daughters, nine-year-old Nadia and seven-week-old Caterina; and a 22-year-old architecture student Dario Capolicchio, who lived in a nearby apartment. Another 33 people were hospitalized for injuries.

Apartment of the Nencioni family
Apartment of the Nencioni family

To the mafia the dead were just ancillary damage. The Uffizi Gallery was the main target of the blast. The structural damage to the museum cost more than a million dollars to repair. Although the reinforced window glass of the museum shattered, it protected most of the artworks from the full force of the blast. Three paintings were completely destroyed, thirty-three others were damaged and three statues were broken.

The damage was far greater to the fifteenth-century Torre dei Pulci, home since 1933 to the Accademia dei Georgofili, established in 1735, the world’s first learned society of agronomy and scientific agriculture. The building imploded and crumbled to the ground, completely destroying the apartment of the Nencioni family. Over one thousand of the Accademia’s 40,000 rare books, manuscripts and historic archives were irretrievably lost.

Damage in the Uffizi Gallery from the bomb blast
Damage in the Uffizi Gallery from the bomb blast

The Florentines pulled together as they had after the extensive damage in World War II and the Arno Flood in 1966. A month later a memorial for the dead filled the Piazza della Signoria where the orchestra and chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino played in concert. It took three years to reopen the Accademia dei Georgofili. Work on parts of the Uffizi Gallery and the Vasari Corridor took much longer.

This year, on May 26, the twentieth anniversary brings a number of events and presentations about the events in the early morning of May 27, 1993, including the presentation of a permanent memorial to the victims, a statue by sculptor Roberto Barni, commissioned by the Friends of Florence, the Associazione tra i Familiari delle Vittime della Strage di Via dei Georgofili, and the Uffizi Gallery organizations. The sculpture is called I Passi d’Oro (The Golden Steps).

Sketch of Roberto Barni's memorial statue
Sketch of Roberto Barni's memorial statue

Domestic Terror Planned and Carried Out By the Mafia

The attack on the Uffizi and Accademia dei Georgofili bore similarities to a bomb targeting anti-mafia campaigner and television host (The Maurizio Costanzo Show) Maurizio Costanzo, which had exploded in the fashionable Roman neighborhood of Parioli 13 days earlier, injuring 23 people.

Terrorist Bomb 5/27/93The Cosa Nostra’s involvement in the bombing was confirmed a month later, in July 1993, when three bombs were detonated, almost simultaneously: one in Milan (at the Pavilion of Contemporary Art, where five people died) and two in Rome (at the cathedral of San Giovanni in Laterano and at the church of San Giorgio in Velabro).

Evidence was soon found suggesting that the bombs were placed by Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian organized crime syndicate. These terrorist attacks were meant not only to deter, by way of warning, its members from turning state’s witness, but also to force the over-ruling of Art. 41 (bis) of the Penitentiary Law of August 1992, which imposed harsh living conditions on prisoners, especially those accused of being members of mafia organizations, severely curtailing their contact with those outside prison.

Words by anti-mafia prosecutor Govanni Falcone on Georgofili olive tree
Words by anti-mafia prosecutor Govanni Falcone on Georgofili olive tree

After the arrest of mafia boss Totò Riina from Corleone in January 1993, the remaining bosses, among them Giuseppe Graviano, Matteo Messina Denaro, Giovanni Brusca, Leoluca Bagarella, Antonino Gioè and Gioacchino La Barbera came together a few times (often in the Santa Flavia area in Bagheria, on an estate owned by the mafioso Leonardo Greco). They decided on a strategy to force the Italian state to retreat in its pressure on the Cosa Nostra. The Graviano brothers were seen as the organizers of the operation, in particular to select the men who would carry out the bombings.

Terrorist Bomb 5/27/93It was nearly ten years before some of the perpetrators were brought to justice. In 2002, for ordering the bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan, bosses Giuseppe and Filippo Graviano each received a life sentence for the bombings. For their part, Leoluca Bagarella, Totò Riina, Bernardo Provenzano and Matteo Messina Denaro (still a fugitive), along with another ten members of the clan were also sentenced to life imprisonment.

Finally, this month, two decades after the horrific acts, Sicilian fisherman Cosimo D’Amato, 68, was sentenced to life imprisonment for supplying explosives for Mafia massacres in Rome, Florence and Milan. He was convicted on testimony from a former mafia member Gaspare Spatuzza. Police say that D’Amato recovered large amounts of TNT, later used in several mafia bombings, from World War II remains he found in the sea. D’Amato is related to other members of the mafia involved in the Falcone and Borsellino slayings.

Terrorist Bomb 5/27/93D’Amato is also being probed for a role in supplying the dynamite used in a massive explosion that killed anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca, and three bodyguards in May 1992. That explosion occurred on the motorway near the town of Capaci near Sicily’s regional capital. Falcone is considered a national hero. The 21st anniversary of Falcone’s murder was marked with ceremonies in Palermo Thursday.

Museo del Cibo – Visit the Carpigiani Gelato Museum

This week the Florence Gelato Festival was the subject of a misunderstanding or evidence that Mayor Renzi does not have his eye on what’s happening in Florence. The Festival was scheduled to run from May 17 to 26, then at the last minute the Mayor’s Office declared that this was too long and was taking up too much valuable space, taking all of the participating gelaterias by surprise. The organizers of the Festival took the city to court and prevailed, so the festival will run until next Sunday. Check the official website for more information.

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One of the major participants in the Festival is Carpigiani, the largest manufacturer of equipment for gelaterias, restaurants and other businesses, as well as for in-home use. Tuscan Traveler enjoyed a few days at Carpigiani’s Gelato University a couple of years ago and is happy to announce that the Carpigiani Gelato Museum has joined the pantheon of food museums in Italy. (Also see here and here.)

Carpigiani Gelato Museum near Bologna
Carpigiani Gelato Museum near Bologna

The Gelato Museum is innovative, dedicated to the study, documentation, and dissemination of the history, values, and culture of artisan gelato, a beloved treat (or rather, necessity) that represents Italian excellence and creativity throughout the world. (Carpigiani has the company goal of taking gelato to every corner of the earth.)

“The objective of the Carpigiani Gelato Museum is to highlight the roots and history of this quality food and the gelato artisans that produce it, bringing excellence, creativity, and flavor to customers worldwide,” said Romano Verardi, President of the Bruto and Poerio Carpigiani Foundation. “We are pleased that this initiative came together just a short time after the official establishment of the European Gelato Day.” (The EU has named March 24 as the annual European Day of Artisan Gelato, first celebrated in 2013.)

1958 One of the first soft serve Carpigiani gelato vans
1958 One of the first soft serve Carpigiani gelato vans

The thousand square meter museum space was created in the current Carpigiani headquarters near Bologna. The complex is built around a central garden that connects the various areas of the building, including showrooms and the Carpigiani Gelato Museum, itself.

The museum features an interactive tour that highlights three principal themes regarding gelato: the evolution of gelato over time, the history of production technology, and the places and ways to consume gelato. More than twenty original machines are on display, along with multimedia presentations, 10,000 historical images and documents, accessories and tools of the trade from ages past, and workshops.

Antique tin boxes for storing gelato cones
Antique tin boxes for storing gelato cones

“The Gelato Museum fulfills the dream of our founders, Bruto and Poerio Carpigiani, the two Bolognese brothers who made it their job to spread gelato technology, culture, and business throughout the world,” says Andrea Cocchi, General Manager of the Carpigiani Group. “The challenge is now to reaffirm the historical memory of our roots so as to strengthen our future, leading us to progress, innovate, and expand our culture.”

The museum has gathered a number of audio-visual testimonies from people who have played a key role in the history of gelato.  Gelato’s place in history is recognized by UNESCO as part of the world’s nutritional heritage.

The Carpigiani Gelato Museum is located along the highway to Milan at Via Emilia 45, in Anzola dell’Emilia, Bologna.

Open Monday to Saturday, tickets free with guided tour, reservation required.

Information and reservations: www.gelatomuseum.org – +39 051 6505306 – info@fondazionecarpigiani.it

Learning labs at the Gelato Museum for children
Learning labs at the Gelato Museum for children

If you are in the Bologna area for more than a few hours take part in tasty gelato lessons after visiting the museum. Choose the experience that entices you most and enter the world of artisan gelato. The activities are conducted by the instructors of Carpigiani Gelato University, the most prestigious gelato school in the world. Check out the website here for the family events and the small group classes at the Gelato Museum ranging from a one hour tour with gelato tasting (5 euro per person), to a two hour tour with hands-on gelato making lesson, gelato tasting, certificate and group photo (10 euro per person, ten person minimum), to the fabulous four-hour tour, gelato theory lesson, hands-on gelato class to create your own flavor, gelato tasting, certificate and group photo (35 euro per person (min. two participants, max. six participants).

There are also shorter duration classes designed especially for children. See here for details.

Mille Miglia pit stop for gelato
Mille Miglia pit stop for gelato

Just a couple of weeks ago, Carpigiani played host for a few hours to one of Tuscan Traveler’s favorite all-Italy events: The Mille Miglia Antique Car Endurance Road Race. See the video here.

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Italian Food Rules: The BookItalian Life Rules (the book) is coming in Summer 2014. Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

Amazon. com (U.S.) eBook for Kindle & Kindle Apps

Amazon. com (U.S.) paperback

Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Amazon.it (Italy)

Amazon.de (Germany)

Amazon.fr (France)

Barnes & Noble (U.S.) eBook for Nook

Tuscan Traveler’s Picks – Casini Firenze

Casini Firenze in Piazza Pitti is the Best Destination for Fine Leather Goods

Casini Firenze is my go-to place in Florence for fine Florentine leather goods. When my touring clients ask me why, I simply say: Impeccable Service, Outstanding Quality and Unique Designs. Jennifer Tattanelli, as her father Giorgio before her, creates not only the perfect product, but the perfect shopping experience at the store located across from the Pitti Palace.

Casisni Firenze logo

Customer service is always top of my list of reasons for recommending any of Florence’s stores, restaurants, or artisans. Florentine business owners, waiters and shop assistants are not known for their “the customer is always right” attitude. At Casini Firenze the customer is not only always right, but becomes a friend of Jennifer and those who work with her.

Year after year, clients, now friends, return to add another jacket or pair of boots or purse to their collection of designs by Jennifer. Many treat themselves to the personal shopping experience offered by Casini and walk away with full wardrobes of shoes, handbags, coats and jackets, dresses, shirts and slacks, not only made in leather, but cashmere, silk, wool and fine cotton. Jennifer and her assistants know at a glance which pieces to show you so as not to waste you precious time in the Renaissance City (or to try the patience of your shopping-adverse spouse, significant other or friends for whom there are comfy chairs and offers of water, soda or wine).

Inside Casini Firenze located in Piazza Pitti
Inside Casini Firenze located in Piazza Pitti

Florence is a city famous for it’s artisans working in gold, paper or leather. Shops selling leather coats and purses have sprung up like porcini after a summer rain. But rather than offering a better product, these flash shops are selling jackets and bags made in China, Indonesia and Morocco. The quality of the leather and the workmanship is suspect. Casini Firenze has its own Tuscan workshop, where skilled artisans work with the finest tanned leathers to create designs by Jennifer Tattanelli.

Not everyone is tall and model-slim. Jennifer’s designing magic takes this into account. Her body-loving designs hide the “flaws” and emphasize the “assets”. Jennifer does not require women to transform their body to suit her creations; she prefers molding her fashion around the woman’s body as it is. She skillfully walks the tightrope between trendy and classical design and has something for every body type. Casini even offers custom fitting and design where you get to chose anything from the color and type of leather, the size of the lapel and the placement of the pockets. Since Casini has its own workshop, the custom-made item will swiftly arrive at your home within a couple weeks.

Giorgio’s Legacy & Jennifer’s Savvy Styling

Giorgio Tattanelli’s dream of owning a store came true in 1971 when he opened Casini Firenze in the prestigious Piazza Pitti. Giorgio has always been a leather artisan. His family’s leather production began just after World War II in 1945 as a small artisan business hand making bags, wallets and attaché cases using a small group of local expert Florentine craftsmen. Giorgio expanded his entrepreneurial ambition by visiting all the trade fairs around Europe, as well as successfully placing his family’s leather accessories in stores on military bases.

Jennifer designs jackets and shoes for both men and women
Jennifer designs jackets and shoes for both men and women

Giorgio’s dream was to create and offer a wide variety of traditional Florentine goods, guaranteeing his clients, both men and women, the best quality leather, excellent craftsmanship and a perfect fit at an extremely reasonable price.

In the meantime, he met and fell in love with an American girl from New York, a descendant of both the famed pathologist Dr. James Ewing and Samuel Clemens, better known as the author Mark Twain. She settled in Florence with him and they began a family.

Giorgio’s eldest daughter Jennifer was born in Florence and was brought up speaking English with her mother and Italian with her father. She spent most of the year with her siblings in Florence, but every summer they went to the Hamptons to visit their grandmother June Ewing, a well know artist and famed collector of American Folk Art.

Jennifer Tattanelli, owner, designer and lead stylist, at Casini
Jennifer Tattanelli, owner, designer and lead stylist, at Casini

Jennifer began her modeling and fashion career at CK (Calvin Klein) in New York City, but in the early 1990s she returned home to expand the family business with her father. Her imagination, international experience, artistic sensibility (based in the very modern world of NYC and the old-style arts and crafts of her grandmother), appreciation of the quality of artisanal Florentine leatherwork, as well as her design savvy have boosted Casini Firenze to be a unique shopping experience in Florence.

Jennifer personally likes to meet her customers, to discover their tastes and style at work and play, so that she can understand their needs. “Everyone’s lifestyle and body is different, so I like to learn about my clients and work with them individually, creating for them exactly what will make them feel special,” she says.

In 2011, the brand – Casini Firenze by Jennifer Tattanelli – was launched, taking Jennifer to a whole new level of design and products. She introduced a fabric clothing line with fine silks cashmeres, and cottons, and soon will be offering personally designed goods for the home (her crocodile iPad case and leather picture frames are just the first pieces of a planned expansion of artisanal items).

Jennifer lives with her family in Florence and still enjoys taking her children for summers in the Hamptons.

Tuscan Traveler’s Picks from  Casini Firenze

My favorite pieces of Jennifer’s recent collections include:

The Intrecciato Pieno Fiore Leather Basket of infinity design. This seamless shopping bag (big enough to be a room accessory for holding magazines or books) is a miracle of historic Florentine leather craftsmanship. Handwoven on a form, each bag takes weeks for the leather artisan to complete. It holds its shape well and is reversible due in part to a seamless construction. The long leather handles make it comfortable to carry and the soft woven leather makes you want to pet it as you make your shopping rounds.

The Intrecciato Pieno Fiore Leather Basket of infinity design
The Intrecciato Pieno Fiore Leather Basket of infinity design

The reversible jackets made of antelope leather light as a feather. The leather tanning process is known as Pieno Fiore. It created a reversible product, which is smooth as silk on one side and soft suede on the other. You get two coats in one. Jennifer’s skill as a stylist comes to the fore with these elegant jackets that come in many different designs, short, long, and full-length, and in elegant, classical, fun and intricate designs. All can be made to measure or bought off the rack. The colors are varied. There is a perfect coat or jacket available for every man or woman. Amazingly, they seem to work for any climate.

The Intrecciato Optical Nappa Satchel is my favorite purse. Sleek, timeless and expertly crafted, it balances with all the outfits, formal and casual, for a local shopping excursion or a long trip to Florence. The adjustable strap and the rounded and soft construction with woven accents gently adapt to the body. The slightly scooped front pocket is cleverly designed to hold an iPad or a paperback book. Zippered on top with one another zippered compartment inside the bag and a tiny inside pocket perfect for a cell phone, this purse is secure in any situation. An extra zippered pocket is located outside in the back for safe storage of your wallet or your passport.

Pieno Fiore reversible leather jacket designed by Jennifer
Pieno Fiore reversible leather jacket designed by Jennifer

Finally, her footwear selection is fabulous. The boots are to die for! They feel great and are extremely comfortable to wear thanks to the forms that are used. Her evening shoes are glamorous; they add the finished touch to any dress, which is hard to find anywhere else. My favorite shoes are the ballerina flats with the interesting blunted toe, like a real ballet shoe, and the hidden lift in the heel that makes for added comfort while walking the cobblestoned alleys of Florence.

Casini Firenze in the United States

Like her father, Jennifer understands the importance of bringing her collection and accessories to the customer. She undertakes three or four trunk sale tours a year with stops in Boston, New York, South Beach, Dallas, Minneapolis, Aspen and Los Angeles. “Like”  Casini Firenze on Facebook to keep track of her travels.